Learning From Mother

by Ben Whitehouse.

Photograph courtesy Ari ScottPhotograph courtesy Ari Scott

Saturday night was Mothers last show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York. The 9 year run of the group at the theater is the longest a house team has performed at UCB. It was a great show to boot.

During the show, I thought about what made Mother such an amazing experience to watch in all the years they have played. A group of performers that had grown together, like a vine wrapping around itself, to become one seamless entity. A group of performers who were taught in the earlier incarnations of the UCB training center. What about this group can we, as improvisers, learn from? What can we steal?


Anyone who has ever seen Mother knows that they committed to realities and characters unabashedly. Never were initiations judged and never did anyone on the group bail on an idea. Everything was embraced and everything nurtured in their scenes. I always felt that Mother’s scenes were like seeds planted in the ground and everyone watered each idea until they grew.


What I always loved about Mother was their embrace of emotion in scenes. Love, hate, lust, happiness, sadness; Mother ran the gambit committing to these emotions truthfully and realizing their extraordinary power in scenes. These organic choices led to scenes with decidedly more intimate content which the cast never shied away from.


Mother would often would start scenes touching, holding, or embracing one another. This is one of those decidedly Mother traits in that they were not shy about using their bodies with each other. They were as comfortable making out on stage as they were brawling into the audience or pirouetting around the stage. This is one thing that I have been thinking much more about in my performances, and something I definitely need to steal.

Love & Trust

Here is where Mother really stood apart. Sure groups love their parts, but Mother’s time together really cemented their incredible trust with one another. You could see the intense love and trust pouring out of their playing. All scenes were pushed that much farther because each cast member knew that behind them were a group of performers that would do anything for them. With that support, your risks in scenes can be limitless and they were.

And so ends almost a decade of performance, it has been fun watching. What’s next? Something amazing I’m sure. But for now, Bye Mother.

What are the lessons you pulled away from Mother?

Will Hines talks about his impressions of Mother

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